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Community turns out to make fallen Marine’s dream a reality

By Staff | May 23, 2010

Local residents turned out Saturday evening at Jaycee Park for For the Love of Our Soldiers, which aimed to raise funds to restore the Iwo Jima Statue outside Eco Park.
The fund-raiser was a joint effort between several groups and the family and friends of Craig T. Fuller. Fuller, 33, was ambushed and killed in April 2009 in a roadside attack in Afghanistan. He was working in the country as a private contractor after serving there in the U.S. Marine Corps. To honor Fuller’s memory, those close to him decided to restore the statue, which meant a lot to Fuller and that he always talked about fixing.
Saturday’s event featured an opening ceremony, complete with bagpipes, the national anthem and a helicopter flyover, along with hands-on activities like a rockwall, a dunk tank and a Guitar Hero tournament. Raffles were also held for prizes, including a one-week cabin stay in the North Carolina Smokey Mountains and local gift certificates.
Fort Myers residents Pete and Barb Eckert were in attendance. Pete Eckert, who was with the U.S. Navy for eight years on the USS New Jersey, is a Korean War veteran.
“We wanted to come out and see what it’s all about,” he said, adding that he wanted to donate to the restoration of the statue as well.
According to officials, the statue has more than 150 cracks and one of the soldier’s legs is being held together with zip ties. Details like the soldiers’ fingers and hands need to be reworked, and the statue needs to be repainted. The project is expected to cost $85,000.
“I’m proud to be an American,” Eckert said. “I’m proud to love our country.”
A snare drummer for 18 years in the Governor’s Foot Guard in New Haven, Conn., he said a favorite feature of Saturday’s event was listening to the drum core performance.
“I enjoy listening to the bagpipes and things,” Eckert said.
He explained that it made him feel proud to see the crowd that turned out to support the restoration project, as well as the county’s soldiers and veterans.
“It’s nice to know that there’s so many people still proud of this country,” Eckert said.
“It’s a great honor to participate in today’s event,” Barb Eckert added.
Daniela Kramp and Jennifer Hodson, both of Cape Coral, dropped by Saturday with their children. Kramp’s 8-year-old son, Jeremy, is a second-grader at Oasis Charter Elementary School. The school’s second-grade class performed during the fund-raiser.
“It’s very nice. I love it,” Kramp said of the event, adding that there were a lot of games for the children and a lot of information on the American troops and Fuller.
Hodson said they came out “to support the troops and see what’s going on.”
“And the kids loved the flyover,” she added. “That was very cool.”
Christian Hodson-Foote, 9, and Justin Kramp, 12, agreed.
“Awesome,” Christian said of the helicopter.
“It was cool,” Justin said.
Both mothers said they try to attend every local event that caters to the children, and they loved the fact that Saturday’s fund-raiser was not “strictly for the adults.” Kramp and Hodson added that they would like to see more kid-friendly events in the Cape, along with a yearly parade to honor local police officers, firefighters and soldiers.
Cape residents Al and Sue Thomas attended to watch a friend’s child perform the national anthem. Al Thomas, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era, said Saturday’s event gave him the chance to meet and talk with other veterans.
“Today’s events were good,” Thomas said. “There was a lot of camaraderie amongst all the vets, no matter what era or what branch.”
The For the Love of Our Soldiers team, with the assistance of the Cape Coral Community Foundation, has created the Craig T. Fuller Iwo Jima Statue Restoration Fund. To donate to the fund, contact the foundation at 542-8307 or visit online at: capecoralcf.planyourlegacy.org . Donors can also visit online: craigtfuller.com .